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Health Impacts of Wastewater Reuse: Assessing the Feasibility of the WHO Guidelines in Low-Income Communities. Ann Thomas , International Development Research Centre (IDRC). IRC MUS Meeting, Delft, February 12th, 2007. Overview. What is IDRC? ‘ Livelihoods,health and wastewater reuse’

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Ann Thomas , International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

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Health Impacts of Wastewater Reuse: Assessing the Feasibility of the WHO Guidelines in Low-Income Communities

Ann Thomas,International Development ResearchCentre (IDRC)

IRC MUS Meeting, Delft, February 12th, 2007


  • What is IDRC?

  • ‘Livelihoods,health and wastewater reuse’

  • Overview of other IDRC projects in environmental sanitation, productivity, livelihoods.

  • Partnering with IDRC

What is IDRC ?

  • A crown corporation created by the Parliament of Canada in 1970

  • Board appointed by Government of Canada

  • Mission: “Empowerment Through Knowledge”

  • Supporting researchers in developing countries in finding practical, long-term solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems

The Program Areas

  • Environment and Natural Resource Management – ECOHEALTH, Rural Poverty and Environment, Urban Poverty and Environment

  • Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D)

  • Innovation, Policy and Science

  • Social and Economic Policy

Urban Programming at IDRC

  • Previous themes under ‘Cities Feeding People’ – urban agriculture, wastewater reuse

  • Present themes under UPE: Urban agriculture, water and sanitation, vulnerability to disasters, solid waste management, land tenure

  • Global Focus City Program: 8 cities globally, capacity building, decentralization, environmental sanitation prioritized, partnerships between governments, ngos, research institutes, communities

  • Other Programming: Combination of analysis/diagnostic, piloting/testing and policy/best-practice influence.

Urban Agriculture, Wastewater Reuse and Livelihoods

  • Prioritisation of greywater reuse research (1998) at an IDRC workshop;

  • Greywater/wastewater projects in Palestine, Jordan , Lebanon and Dakar;

  • Wastewater reuse a key issue in urban agriculture … a strong perceived need for better planning, innovation and integration….

Health vs. social benefits

Hyderabad Declarations (2002)

  • Appropriate/realistic guidelines needed to adapt and apply international (WHO) guidelines for wastewater treatment and reuse for the benefit of poor stakeholders.

  • Non-treatment options may play a significant role in reducing disease risk in such circumstances.

WHO/IDRC/FAO Guiding Principles

  • WW is a resource and economic catalyst;

  • Multi-stakeholder approaches and dialogue may help guide effective municipal planning and knowledge of UA and wastewater reuse;

  • A balance of various approaches and interventions needed;

  • Increased research capacity is key to effective risk reduction.

Four Cases in MEWA

  • Selected via competitive call of shortlisted institutions in MEWA;

  • Kumasi, Tamale, Jordan, Dakar selected;

  • Complementarity: Analysis of risk chains and various stakeholder approaches: farmers, farm workers, neighbours, consumers, vendors;

  • Focus on non-treatment but also includes basic/low-cost treatment where feasible.

Research Questions

  • Locally feasible exposure control strategies?

  • Best methods for increasing awareness of health hazards for farmers, workers, consumers?

  • Cost-effectiveness?

  • Enabling environment for reduced risk?

  • Capacity building needs for all stakeholders in order to successfully reduce exposure?


  • Balancing health and economic gains.

  • How to improve (through incentives?) adoption of best practise by various stakeholders?

  • Increasing awareness amongst decision-makers of the importance of wastewater reuse to productivity and food security.

  • Leveraging the link between productivity and environmental sanitation to incentivize improved, integrated services.

Other project examples: environmental sanitation and livelihoods

  • Jakarta: Examining economic incentives for improved water, sanitation, and solid waste services: linking enhanced services to productivity and livelihoods;

  • Dakar: Strengthening/formalizing scavenger organizations;

  • Gianyar,Bali: Linking the benefits of carbon emissions reductions at landfill to poor (neighbouring) communities;

Partnering with IDRC

  • Development research grant-making is the core of our activities;

  • Upcoming calls on Productive Strategies, Compensation for Environmental Services, Migration and Remittances;

  • Rural-urban linkages: Globally;

  • Climate change in Africa.

Contact us

Ann Thomas

International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

250 Albert Street, Ottawa Ontario



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